Sensible Boris

Mr Johnson said: "I have thought about this for a little bit, but I haven\’t looked at all the evidence and talked to the police about it in a way I would before giving more than an extempore answer.

"However, I do think there is a case when cannabis is being used to alleviate severe and chronic pain that the law should be flexible."

That it should be flat out legal we all know, it\’s just that you\’re rather held back by the social authoritarians you hang out with….

Just What We Need

Yay!

The fees became a subject for consumer rebellion last year after the OFT ruled that similar fees for late and unpaid credit card repayments were unlawful, and consumer groups started to encourage customers to claim refunds.

More than 1m reclaim letters were downloaded from websites, and in some cases customers were able to win back thousands of pounds from the banks, who refused to contest the claims in court.

Martin Lewis, founder of the website Moneysavingexpert.com, told Sky News the ruling was "a massive vindication for bank charges campaigners".

He said up to £9bn could now be reclaimed by bank customers.

Let\’s rip £9 billion of capital out of the banks in the middle of a credit crunch!

Yippee!

Update: this seems to have been misunderstood. I\’m not arguing that the banks should not have to obey the law: of course they should. I\’m not trying to argue that it should be set aside or ignored, far from it. I\’m solely commenting on the point that in the grander scheme of things about bank solvency ratios and the like, this isn\’t exactly the most glorious time for this to happen. It never rains but it pours etc.

Started Already

Bob Spink\’s first EDM as the UKIP MP:

That this House notes that carers\’ earnings must not exceed £95 net per week in order to qualify for the carer\’s allowance benefit, that maximum individual earnings combined with the carer\’s allowance equates to only £7,568 per annum and, as a result, working carers are adversely affected by the abolition of the 10 per cent. tax rate; further notes that most carers care for adults and are thus not entitled to child tax credits, nor do they qualify for working tax credits because they cannot work the requisite hours; believes that carers make an invaluable contribution to society; and urges the Government to adopt the UKIP offical policy of a simple flat tax (with national insurance) starting at £10,000 which will greatly assist many carers.

I can\’t speak ex officio on such a matter, but at that does sound very much like something my fellow bleeding heart classical liberals would support.

Our Glorious European Union

This is how the system works:

Firstly Barroso moved Jacques Barrot from the Transport to the Justice & Home Affairs portfolio in the Commission.

Yup.

Barrot has been a European Commissioner since April 2004, serving as Commissioner for Regional Policy in the Prodi Commission before being selected as a Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport in the Barroso Commission.In 2000 he was convicted in a French court of "abuse of confidence".The case involved the diverting of £2 million of government money to his party.He received an eight month suspended prison sentence but was pardonned by Jacques Chirac.

This is the way the European Union works. The Justice department for 450 million people is now to be run by a convicted criminal.

Can we leave yet?

Update: welcome Instapundit readers: yes, please do copy and spread that video.

Kathryn Hughes

While no one would begrudge the young their future choice of memories, it does seem that something has been lost in the process. For the rest of us, remembering and re-telling the moments when our shared environment changed – grew sharper, turned colourful, or involved less hassle – becomes a crucial collective experience, one that binds quite disparate existences together.

Modern technolgical advance is bad, M\’Kay, because it\’s a personal rather than collective experience.

Lord save us from the collectivists, please!

Tough Titty Timmy

From the latest, Pennsylvanian act of the world\’s longest Punch and Judy show, I draw this conclusion: whoever wins the presidential election in November, the world will be disappointed.

USians are electing the President of the United States of America. What the rest of the world thinks about it really doesn\’t matter.

You want a voice in it? Immigrate, pay your taxes and vote.

Nappy Recycling

I wonder, I do you know:

Britain is to get its first disposable nappy recycling plant, which will convert the mountain of waste which goes into landfill every day into plastic, cladding and roof tiles. Knowaste, a Canadian company which recycles nappies and other products in the US, plans to invest more than £20m in the UK plant over five years.

The facility, earmarked for Tyseley, Birmingham, will enable the recycling of around 30,000 tonnes of nappies, about 4% of Britain\’s nappy waste a year, and aims to eventually recycle up to 13%.

So, what will be the extra CO2 emissions (and remember to take off the methane collected and used as those in landfill rot) created by this scheme?

Umm, the company doesn\’t actually tell us.

There is a collection cost, which will be charged by your waste collection company. In addition, Knowaste charges a ‘gate fee’ to use its recycling facility. The costs of recycling are cost competitive compared to taking nappy waste to landfill. The latter will mean a landfill gate fee and landfill taxes which are currently £24 per tonne and set to increase by £8 per tonne each year from April 2008 until at least 2010/11. By using the Knowaste process, local authorities will be able to avoid any penalties that may occur from not meeting the landfill diversion targets.

It appears that it\’s only cost competitive because of the landfill taxes imposed by hte European Union: those taxes which we know are wildly overblown in hte first place.

 

Argle, Argle, Argle

This is causing some confusion:

It denies that there is a conflict between meeting renewables targets and protecting wildlife. But this conflict keeps on happening. The biggest single source of renewable power in the UK would be the tidal barrage that is proposed across the Severn estuary – it could potentially generate 5% of the country\’s entire supply. But building it would have severe ecological consequences on the tidal mudflats, which host a panoply of aquatic life and
wading birds – and once again, the RSPB, this time supported by Friends of the Earth (FoE), is strongly in the anti camp. FoE has proposed an alternative system of tidal lagoons, but these would generate less power and might not be economically feasible. Jonathon Porritt\’s Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) last year proposed building the barrage but ensuring that compensatory habitats were established elsewhere for displaced wildlife – especially if these new habitats could help birds and other species adapt to rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change.

What is clear is that all energy-generation technologies have an impact on the environment – and environmentalists are going to have to think more deeply about what their hierarchy of priorities is. For example, nuclear and hydro power were both anathema to environmentalists for decades but are slowly and reluctantly being accepted back into the fold due to their perceived potential for producing low-carbon energy. The nuclear option was recently considered by the SDC – and although it was still ruled out on cost and proliferation grounds, its report did have to concede that "nuclear is a low carbon technology", which "could generate large quantities of electricity, contribute to stabilising CO2 emissions and add to the diversity of the UK\’s energy supply". This is a world away from Greenpeace\’s flat refusal to even consider moving away from its outright and long-standing rejection of nuclear power. Similarly on biofuels, even as environmental campaign groups lobby against the new government-sponsored biofuels mandate (a reversal from their favourable position a few years ago), the Royal Society still insists that biofuels "have a potentially useful role in tackling the issues of climate change and energy supply".

Shock, Horror! There is no such thing as a free lunch!

Actions have consequences, you can\’t have everything, choices must be made!

Sheesh, we\’ve been trying to tell the greens this for decades.

OK, so now that the lesson is beginning to sink in, let\’s actually expand the question shall we? Should we mitigate? Or adapt? What combination of the two should we try for? What will it cost to do one or the other?

Now that we\’ve actually got everyone agreeing that there are both costs and benefits to any course of action, can we start calculating them correctly so that we can make informed decisions?

Highly Confused

OK, the first part is obviously true:

Richard Lambert said the bonuses rewarded success but did not penalise failure, and that if bankers had been staking their own capital they might not have taken such big risks. The CBI chief also accused investment banks of being cavalier in their attitude towards risk.

He said: "At the heart of many of Wall Street\’s problems has been a serious misalignment between the interests of managers and shareholders. It\’s clear a number of investment banks overlooked basic risk controls in their drive to increase profits.

"This pattern of behaviour has been exacerbated by a remuneration structure which has encouraged some employees to take spectacular short-term risks, confident that if things work out well they will reap huge rewards, and that if they don\’t they won\’t be around to pay the price. If it had been their own equity at risk, things might have played out differently."

That\’s the principal agent problem at play and no one is really all that sure how you solve it. Various attempts have been made of course, but there\’s no one size fits all solution.

The bonus culture has turned thousands of relatively mediocre performers in the banking industry into multi-millionaires, while top performers have earned vast sums. The head of Barclays investment banking, Bob Diamond, was paid £36m last year even though Barclays took a £1.6bn hit from the US sub-prime crisis.

Although somehave tried, of course. A significant part of Diamond\’s bonus was paid in restricted stock (ie, shares that he has to hold for a number of years) and he took a £25 million loss on such stock awarded in previous years. That\’s at least part of the way to solving the principal agent problem.

Lambert\’s view of the damage created by the City bonus culture came in his speech yesterday at the British Venture Capital Association\’s 25th anniversary summit. He said the economic climate would also show whether private equity groups operate a better business model than traditional listed companies, or whether they have just generated wealth from the cheap debt and rising asset prices of recent years. He said private equity firms now needed to show that their business model worked "without the easy access to credit and rising prices of assets".

And of course that\’s another way of solving said problem: make the principals and the agents the same people. And we will indeed see whether it\’s a total solution or not.

But to complain both about the banking model and the private equity one in the same speech does look a tad confused.

Responsibility at the OFT

Yesterday I suggested that those responsible for having to pay the £100,000 to Morrisons might be forced to pay it themselves, rather than us taxpayers picking up the bill.

It was business as usual yesterday at the Office of Fair Trading. A badly drafted, inaccurate and sensationalist press release may have cost us taxpayers £100,000 and forced the OFT to apologise to Wm Morrison, but the regulator, it seems, concluded it would be unfair to discipline any individuals.

In the real world, the debacle would have cost someone – anyone – their job. Former management consultant Sean Williams, the "director of markets and projects" whose name adorned the press release, would have been the favourite for the chop. But life, it seems, is very different at the OFT.

Sadly, that\’s not the way it works: not even any falling on swords pour encourager les autres.

Happy Taxpayer, eh?

I\’ve Asked This Before

But any of you readers know how I could go about purchasing a put option on the price of crude oil?

1) Needs to be an option, not a future. Hey, I\’m a private investor.

2) Reasonably long term: 12 months or more if possible.

3) Well out of the money….like $70 a barrel stuff.

OK, so I\’m pretty certain that the financial markets are sophisticated enough to be able to deal with all of the above. However, I have a feeling that they might only be for "professional" investors, ie, dealing in sums far larger than the £1k-£1,500 I might be willing to lay out on such a bet.

So, anyone actually know?

Not The Most Surprising of Findings

A cuddle from mother is a natural painkiller for babies, according to a new report.

Premature newborns suffered less if they experienced skin-to-skin contact with their mother as they underwent a painful medical procedure, their study found.

A cuddle also appeared to help babies recover from pain more quickly.

Anyone else entirely unsurprised by this?

One thing it might lead to though is something of an explanation for why things like Reiki massage and so on do inded work in reducing pain. The theory that these Woo Woo things are based on is of course entirely Woo Woo, except for the fact that someone is paying attention, taking time with the patient and that skin on skin contact. We\’re primed to like all three of thoe things, even if supported by mumbo jumbo.